Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sir Michael Beetham: 40 years in the RAF

A 40-year RAF career

A History and Honour news article

6 May 11

From World War Two and the Cold War stand-off to the Falklands, Sir Michael Beetham has been at the centre of events that have shaped the world. Report by Peter Jacobs.

Sir Michael Beetham

Sir Michael Beetham in the cockpit of a Hawk at RAF Valley in 1973
[Picture: via MOD]

After a 40-year career that began and ended in conflict on the world stage, Sir Michael Beetham survives as one of four men to hold the rank of Marshal of the Royal Air Force.

It could have been so different, but for an accident of birth. Men born after 1927 were too young to serve in the Second World War. They inherited a secure peacetime Britain keen to forget the nightmare of Hitler. For those born earlier, fate offered a very different prospect - total war against the Nazis.

Beetham's birth date set a trajectory that propelled him into the heart of the European maelstrom.

Before the age of 21 he had completed a tour as a Lancaster pilot with Bomber Command which earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross before he was even able to drive a car.

Nearly four decades later, as Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Beetham, and the most senior officer in the RAF, he masterminded the legendary Vulcan raid on Stanley in the Falkland Islands.

The crew of the Valiant that smashed the world non-stop flying record

Sir Michael Beetham (second right) with the crew of the Valiant that smashed the world non-stop flying record
[Picture: via MOD]

It was a mission that succeeded against the odds and turned the tide of the conflict - dealing a demoralising blow to the Argentinian forces. However, he admits that had he been born later he would probably have become a Home Counties solicitor with a penchant for golf.

Born in London in 1923, Beetham's outstanding RAF career began in 1941.

He initially trained in the United States before joining 50 Squadron in 1943 - just in time to take part in the Battle of Berlin....

Go 'meet' Sir Michael Beetham here.

Thank you for your service, Sir.

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